MSM 243: And there go the sirens . . . .

Presented in collaboration with the Association for Middle Level Education.


Jokes You Can Use:

A man was walking on the beach one day and he found a bottle half buried in the sand. He decided to open it. Inside was a genie. The genie said,” I will grant you three wishes and three wishes only.” The man thought about his first wish and decided, “I think I want 1 million dollars transferred to a Swiss bank account. POOF! Next he wished for a Ferrari red in color. POOF! There was the car sitting in front of him. He asked for his final wish, ” I wish I was irresistible to women.” POOF! He turned into a box of chocolates.


Q: What does a stamp say to an envelope?

A: Stick with me and we’ll go places.



What is the best time to go to bed?

When the bed won’t come to you.



Eileen Award:

  • Twitter: Sarah Cooper

  • Happy Birthday Award: Ron King




7 Bridges

Middle School Science Minute

by Dave Bydlowski (k12science or




Each year the National Science Teachers Association announces the outstanding science trade books from grades K-12.  This list includes books published in 2012.  This is the first in a series of podcasts that will look at the best books for grades 6 – 8.


The books included in this podcast are:

1.  Alien Deep: Revealing the Mysterious Living World at the Bottom of the Ocean by Bradley Hague.

2.  Black Gold: The Story of Oil in our Lives by Albert Marrin and Alfred A. Knopf.

3.  Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon.


From the Twitterverse:

* Larry Ferlazzo ‏@Larryferlazzo

The Best Ideas On How To Finish The School Year Strong…. …

* Kelly Hines ‏@kellyhines

am thinking about using 20% projects as my “homework” for next year… kids would love! #edcampnc

* Timothy D. Slekar ‏@slekar

“digital natives” is nothing more than techno slang invented by marketing executives. … @DianeRavitch

* Clif Mims ‏@clifmims 1h

4 Ways To Improve School Communication Using Social Media  #edtech #cpchat

* Kyle Calderwood ‏@kcalderw

Using Twitter for Teachers’ Professional Development  #njed #edchat #smchat #cpchat

* Clif Mims ‏@clifmims 1h

Minnesota Senate Passes Education Bill That Ends High-Stakes Tests  #education #edchat

* Richard Byrne ‏@rmbyrne 2h

Teenage Life in Ancient Rome – A TED-Ed Lesson

* Bradley Lands ‏@MrLands

@Jennifer_Hogan research tells us that resiliency is the number one skill that students will need to be successful #satchat

* Karen Bosch ‏@karlyb 3h

Practice Grammar with Technology – nice list of online grammar games! …

* Monte Tatom ‏@drmmtatom 19h

“The 4 Stages of Technology Integration in Education” ~ #EdTech & #mLearning ~ #fhuedu642 #fhuedu320 => @MSMatters …

* Monte Tatom ‏@drmmtatom 19h

“Top 10 #iPad Apps for Lesson Planning” ~ #EdTech & #mLearning ~ #fhuedu320 ~ for @MSMatters followers …

* Monte Tatom ‏@drmmtatom 19h

“New: Free social writing platform for teachers & students” ~ #fhuedu320 #fhucid #edtech ~ for @MSMatters followers …

#mschat every Thursday at 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.




Generated Paper

Free “paper”.

  • Graphs & grid

  • Children

  • Games (BattleShip, Tic-Tac-Toe, Sudoku)

  • Wire framing

  • Music

  • Language

  • Calendar




The First Race to the Top

Published: April 20, 2013


To teachers everywhere, the message is clear: Raise test scores. No excuses.

For the first time, examiners gave the highest grammar school classes a common written test, conceived by a few political activists who wanted precise measurements of school achievement. The examiners tested 530 pupils — the cream of the crop below high school. Most flunked.

The testing groundwork was laid in 1837, when a lawyer and legislator in Massachusetts named Horace Mann became secretary of the newly created State Board of Education, part of the Whig Party’s effort to centralize authority and make schools modern and accountable.

Mann claimed in 1844 in a nationally publicized report that Prussia’s schools were more child-friendly and superior to America’s.

The examiners explained in a lengthy report that they wanted “positive information, in black and white,” to reveal what students knew.

All summer, Howe and his colleagues hand-graded the tests, evaluating 31,159 responses. The average score was 30 percent. The committee wrote a searching commentary on the outcome and prepared tables ranking the schools by average score.

The examiners’ report lambasted the schools. “Some of the answers are so supremely absurd and ridiculous,” the committee noted, that one might think the pupils were “attempting to jest with the Committee.” Pupils had memorized material they often did not understand. Those who could repeat lines from the famous poem “Thanatopsis” could not define the word in the title. Students could not explain whether Lake Ontario flowed into Lake Erie or the other way around. Anyone who has ever listened to children who just took a standardized test can imagine their consternation.

Tests, they said, would identify the many teachers who emphasized rote instruction, not understanding. They named the worst ones and called for their removal.

They censured the head teacher in the segregated Smith School for not seeing potential in African-American children, whose scores were abysmal.

They presciently suggested that tests would one day compare schools across national boundaries.

Mann told Howe to deflect criticism from the examiners by blaming the masters for low scores.

What can we learn from the advent of what we learned to call “high-stakes testing”? What transpired then still sounds eerily familiar: cheating scandals, poor performance by minority groups, the narrowing of the curriculum, the public shaming of teachers, the appeal of more sophisticated measures of assessment, the superior scores in other nations, all amounting to a constant drumbeat about school failure.

Poor children lag and affluent parents patronize the most exclusive schools to separate their children from anyone labeled “below average.” The survival instinct encourages many teachers to teach to the test, relying on the rote methods that the original exams sought to expose.

We have come a long way since the summer of 1845. Public education, then in its infancy, is now universal. Testing yields essential, valuable knowledge about school performance, but its exaggerated use distorts teaching and ignores the broader purpose of education.



You’ll Be Shocked by How Many of the World’s Top Students Are American

The U.S. claims one-third of the developed world’s high-performing students in both reading and science.

When you look at the average performance of American students on international test scores, our kids come off as a pretty middling bunch. If you rank countries based on their very fine differences, we come in 14th in reading, 23rd in science, and 25th in math. Those finishes led Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to flatly declare that “we’re being out-educated.”

But averages also sometimes obscure more than they reveal.

When it comes to raw numbers, it turns out we generally have far more top performers than any other developed nation.

Among OECD nations in 2006, the United States claimed a third of high-performing students in both reading and science, far more than our next closest competitor, Japan.

Part of this is easy to explain: The United States is big. Very big.

… our high scorers are balanced out by an very large number of low scorers. Our education system, just like our economy, is polarized.

It seems pretty likely, in other words, that China has more young math and science geniuses at its disposal than we do (whether that’s something that should be keeping any of us up at night is another issue).

You can’t replicate a country’s style of education without replicating its culture,


In Utah’s digital shift, students turning the page on traditional textbooks

A shift from traditional textbooks to e-books is gaining speed in Utah, as the state Office of Education coordinates efforts to develop digital texts in science, math and language arts. At least two state math texts are already available and the first of the science texts will be released this summer.

But schools can use the savings from free open-source textbooks to buy digital devices for students to read them, said David Wiley, an associate professor in instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University who studies innovation as a Shuttleworth Fellow.

Or, he added, schools can print out open-source textbooks at a lower cost than buying traditional texts from publishers.


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